Hear the term “at-risk” kids and it usually doesn’t equate with “high-achieving” kids. Turns out, though, this sector of children should be included on the at-risk list. Here’s what’s important to know about dangerous risks high-achieving students face.
What a new study found: pressure put on kids in both public and private schools with high standardized test scores, along with a multitude of extracurricular activities, can create stress levels that compromise their and well-being. Not to be left out, graduates that go on to attend top universities.
Parents typically seek these educational environments in the hope of giving their child an advantage educationally, but what is the cost?
The study, by National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, focuses on health inequities. The goal of the study was to identify groups facing adversities that could impact their long-term health.
Specific identified specific groups of children, the study discovered, are “subgroups well known to face serious inequities in relation to mental health.” Among these groups, “children exposed to high achievement pressures, usually in relatively affluent communities,” was noted as a “vulnerable” group.
This is news to many parents who have subscribed to the idea the only way for their children to achieve success is by placing them in a highly competitive academic environment.
The findings are supported by a report released last year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation deeming adolescence one of the most vulnerable times of development. Excessive pressure to achieve was listed as an environment that “makes it harder for young people to succeed.”
The pressure to excel in a highly competitive social and academic setting is repeatedly seen as a risk, “An environment characterized by extreme pressure to succeed or to outdo everyone else—often, but not exclusively, occurring in affluent communities—can have negative effects such as high levels of stress or alcohol and drug use.”
This doesn’t mean all children in these high achieving schools will experience emotional health issues. What it does mean is these children are at a greater risk because of their environment.
Both studies also emphasize the importance of the relationship between caregivers (parents) and their children.
A close bond between parents in early childhood and adolescence is viewed as essential to emotional health. Also emphasized is the need of acceptance, especially in adolescence. Children need to feel loved and accepted based on who they are, in a way that’s not contingent upon their achievements.